COU Statement: COVID-19 Funding Announcement

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COU Statement: COVID-19 Funding Announcement

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TORONTO, March 19, 2021 – “Virtually every sector is feeling the impacts of the pandemic, and Ontario’s universities are no exception. Given these increased challenges, the Ontario government announced today that it is providing $106.4M for the postsecondary sector with $44M going to some universities severely impacted by COVID-19.

Ontario’s universities welcome this investment which will help support several of our institutions with some of their most urgent and pressing costs associated with COVID-19. This funding will help these universities continue to prepare students for life-long careers, help build thriving regions, and support a globally competitive economy through research and innovation.

While this targeted and time-limited investment will help address some urgent and immediate costs, it does not address the significant long-term financial needs of the sector.

All Ontario universities have experienced significant costs related to COVID-19. These costs were incurred from swiftly pivoting towards technology-enhanced course delivery models and virtual academic support, career counselling, and mental health supports. They also include implementing new, necessary health and safety measures, such as converting classrooms, providing PPE, the costs of deep cleaning, and much more.

In 2020-21, Ontario’s universities incurred more than $500 million in estimated combined net costs and lost revenue as a result of COVID-19. This is less than half of the total estimated impact of $1 billion that universities were facing before they took quick fiscal actions to reduce the impact through one-time, in-year savings, and deferred expenditures.

These financial challenges have been further compounded by reduced funding to the sector with operating grants lower today than in 2002-03, in addition to the ongoing tuition freeze and a 10 per cent cut to domestic tuition in 2019.

Universities face growing financial pressures such as investing in student mental health, new online technology and deferred maintenance costs. For example, the gap alone between government funding for maintenance and repair and the projected costs is estimated to exceed $10 billion over the next 10 years alone.

Working with government, the sector continues to seek long-term sustainability and revenue flexibility so universities can continue to support vital student programs and services; help communities and local employment; and drive innovation and economic growth.

It is now more important than ever that Ontario’s postsecondary sector can continue to support the fight against COVID-19; provide essential online and mental health services to students; develop a highly skilled and adaptable workforce; strengthen industries, businesses and communities; drive ground-breaking innovation and help restore Ontario’s competitive economy.

Rebuilding Ontario will take partnership across all sectors, regions and levels of government. Our institutions look forward to working with government to ensure a strong and financially sustainable university sector that can continue to meet the needs of students, employers and the communities we serve.”

– Steve Orsini, President and CEO, Council of Ontario Universities

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